Sunday, December 31, 2017

Fiction Review: Oath of Honor (Blue Justice, book 1) by Lynette Eason

Book Description:
Police officer Isabelle St. John loves her crazy, loud, law-enforcement family. With three brothers and two sisters, she's never without someone to hang out with--or fight with. And she knows they'll be there for her when things get tough. Like when her partner is murdered and she barely escapes with her own life.

Determined to discover exactly what happened, Izzy's investigation sends her headfirst into a criminal organization, possibly with cops on the payroll--including someone from her own family. With her dead partner's handsome homicide detective brother Ryan shadowing her every move, Izzy's head is spinning. How can she secure justice for her partner when doing so could mean sending someone she loves to prison? And how will she guard her heart when the man she's had a secret crush on for years won't leave her side?

With her signature fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat action, Lynette Eason invites readers into a captivating new series where justice is a family affair.

My Review:
I love a good heroes versus villain story. And that's what you get in Oath of Honor, a gripping book and the first installment of the Blue Justice series. This book sets the stage for what looks to be an excellent series. The big family working together in law-enforcement  remind me of the television show Blue Bloods, with a few twists. Throughout the story, I could easily picture this large family getting together for Sunday dinner and ribbing each other, off the job. Izzy is, as you'd expect, a strong female character who can take care of herself, yet has a tender side. I enjoyed the underlying romance theme between Izzy and her secret crush. But that's not the best part. From the beginning, the book is filled with twists, turns, and unexpected moments. Eason's writing offers action, suspense, and edge-of-your-seat excitement. I received this book from Revell Publishing. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Kindness in the New Year

Ephesians 4:32
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

It's that time of year when the excitement of Christmas is rolled up and put away. I have mixed feeling about the week after Christmas. Being off work with a few days to do whatever I want makes me happy. But my heart breaks a little that Christmas is over. Although it took months to prepare for, I love this time of year. In the next week or so, I'll pack away the Christmas tree and decorations. The stores will pull out their Valentine items and maybe even Easter. I'll go back to work and life will be "normal" again.

Even though much of the holidays will be tucked away. I hope a few things continue. Christmas time brings out the kindness and thoughtfulness in people. Dare I say the magic of Christmas sprinkles over people and makes them more aware of helping others, perhaps. But I truly believe people recognize the reason for the season. No one on this earth showed kindness the way Jesus did. He healed the hurting, gave to the needy, and shared with his friends and family. Jesus showed more compassion than anyone. So much so, he gave his life for sinners like me. Whether we want to believe this or not, Christmas draws attention to the kind of man Jesus lived as. He gave kindness and compassion, forgiveness, and hope. So no, kindness and compassion don't grow from magic. Instead they spread because of Jesus. So while we put away Christmas, let's keep the spirit of kindness out and pour it over the people around us. In 2018, share kindness and compassion as part of the everyday. Love God, love people.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Calm and Bright

The day after Christmas—a day to re-coop, relax and reflect. For three days we had a whirlwind of family gatherings. Saturday, we spent time with Tim's family and my family. The older I get, the more I enjoy visiting with my nieces and nephews, catching up with their lives and seeing the little ones grow and change. Sunday was a quiet day, as we traveled to Columbus to spend time with Kati. On the way there, we stopped by the Rivers Crossing church for the Christmas service. We were blessed by an excellent message and a beautiful candlelit moment. Being with Kati reminds us how thankful we are for her health and fitness. We about lost her a few years ago, praise God for her recovery and resurgence. Monday, we traveled to Adam's and shared gifts with him and Brenda and four of our grandkids. What a delight! Sara, Maggie, and Hannah and their families spent the evening at our home. We had so much fun.

After months of preparation, Christmas has come and gone, again. And I feel good. God gave me great health to celebrate his birth. Even though Tim was a bit under the weather on Christmas Day, he enjoyed most of the weekend activities. God gave us a beautiful family to share life with, good food and people who cooked it, and the spirit of gratitude. Every Christmas I pray my family sees Jesus in me. I hope this year was the same.  Some years, Christmas brings on a lot of added stress. I think that's why I can appreciate the holiday seasons that are calm, like this one.

This morning I dropped off our youngest daughter, who caught a ride back to South Carolina. Many times I cry when she goes back. But today, I just felt peace. We had a great visit, and I know God has wonderful things in store.
I pray 2018 is a year of serenity, if not in the world then at least in my soul.  

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Wonder and Celebration!

Luke 2:11
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

Celebration and wonder. Two words I think of at Christmas.

I tend to wonder if all the celebration I generate glorifies Jesus. This year, I started in September. Since I create some of my gifts by hand, I have to get an early start. I make my lists, I search for bargains (we have a big family!) and I wrap. For two days, I wrap. The tree sparkles in the corner (thanks to Maggie) and the manger scenes are scattered around the house.  I make fudge, cookie dough, pizza dip, cheeseball, and cranberry cake. And oh yes, a birthday cake for Jesus. I clean my housecompany's coming. The cards are in the mail and the Facebook greetings are posted. Did I miss something? Probably.

So much celebration for a tiny King.

Are you exhausted after reading my Christmas to do list? I am. Until I remember why I overextend myself this time of year. Jesus walked on earth for me. He came as a baby, grew into a man, then sacrificed his life for my sin. He did all of that for me and for you. What I do to honor his birth is minuscule compared to what he has done for me.
The hustle and bustle can be overwhelming. But for me, every cookie I bake, package I wrap, gift I buy reminds me of Jesus and his love for me. Yes I can get caught up in the chaos and forget the reason for the season. But I've learnedand it's taken yearsto stop, even for a moment and think about why I celebrate my Savior's birth as I do. I want to  let the pure intention of showing Jesus to the world shine through my traditions. I want everyone to know how much Jesus loves them.

 Jesus is why I celebrate Christmas, I want to let that be known in all I do.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas filled with joy, peace, hope, and wonder!


Christmas Celebration


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Jolly Old St.Nicholas or Not?

Santa Claus was introduced to America in 1823 when Clement Moore put a fresh image of giving on the face of Christmas. In A Visit from St. Nicholas also known as, The Night before Christmas, Moore created a story for his children based on a man named Nicholas, born around A.D. 280 in the small town of Patara (Turkey). As a believer in the Bible, Nicholas showed great compassion for others. He gave so much to so many that legends spread about him. Eventually, Saint Nicholas became an icon of generosity.

Growing up, my family celebrated the birth of Jesus by reading the Christmas story and attending church services. The stereo played Perry Como’s rendition of the holiday hymns. Mom positioned a cr├Ęche on the mantel and one year we even had a live nativity on our porch. So I knew that Christmas honored Jesus birth. On the other hand, I remember my delight when I found packages that appeared on Christmas morning from “Santa”. The magic and wonder that surrounded the mystery gift giver added a sparkle of fun to the day.

When my children were old enough to understand the traditions of Christmas, I puzzled over whether to introduce Santa Claus into the gift giving. I wanted them to know that Christmas centered on the birth of Jesus, but I also wanted them to be acquainted with the kind, caring legend of Saint Nicholas.
So much of the modern version of this December holiday centers on retail sales. Rather than focus on receiving gifts from Santa, I taught my daughters about his giving spirit.  We read the story of how he gave gold to the daughters of a widower in the middle of the night and how he cared more about others than himself. We also shared the story of Jesus’ nativity and talked about why we set aside Christmas to observe his birth.

I wanted my daughters to recognize that giving was more important than receiving. St. Nick’s story offers hope in mankind, Jesus story offers hope for mankind. Joy fills my heart as I hear my children teaching their children about the spirit of giving and the wonder of the season.  What a blessing to share the joy of Jesus and the legend of Santa.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Season of Hope

Matthew 12:21
And Jesus name will be the hope of all the world.

Christmas is a time of joy, but it can also be a season of sadness. This past week we lost two wonderful men. My uncle Floyd and our dear friend, John, left this earth.
I'll always remember my Uncle Floyd's ornery smile. He never failed to ask me, when I was a teenager, if I had a boyfriend yet. He embarrassed me, but I loved him anyway. I'm thankful that years later he got to know my husband, Tim. Even more important, he grew to know Jesus.

We met John and his wife Jessica at church. One of the first things we knew about John was how much he loved his family and his Savior, Jesus. John suffered with physical pain for years, but it didn't stop him from serving at the church and giving his all to the people he loved.

Knowing these men loved God fills my heart with hope. I've no doubt Jesus has opened his arms to them. Because Jesus came to earth as a precious baby, lived a life sharing his story of faith, and died on the cross to be raised back to life—we have HOPE. Floyd and John's families and friends anticipate seeing them again in heaven. That's a hope that blesses us here on earth.

If this holiday season is a time of sadness, believe that hope in Jesus soothes the soul. Jesus loves us and desires his children to trust in him. I pray he has all the folks who are hurting wrapped in his arms of hope.

With Jesus, hope shines through the darkness of despair.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Movie Review: The Man Who Invented Christmas

Description:
In 1843 London, author Charles Dickens finds himself in financial trouble after writing three unsuccessful novels in a row. Desperate for a hit, Dickens relies on real-life inspiration and his vivid imagination to bring Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and other classic characters to life in "A Christmas Carol," forever changing the holiday season into the celebration known today.

My Thoughts:
I'd seen the trailer and knew I wanted to see The Man Who Invented Christmas. I've been intrigued with the story of A Christmas Carol since I was in Girl Scouts, and we acted it out. Dan Stevens, who played Matthew in Downton Abby, entertained in his outstanding take on Dickens. His energy filled the screen. Christopher Plummer is a hoot as Scrooge. For me, I was taken aback by the dismal city of London, yet uplifted by the scenes where Dickens is writing  against the clock to create a story the world would love. The imaginative scenes which draws in the vivid characters of his story inspired me. The movie is filled with life, both real and fictitious. Humor found its place, as well as familial love. Tim and I both enjoyed the story line and the wonderful acting. If you are looking for a feel good movie to watch this holiday season, I recommend The Man Who Invented Christmas. If you are a fiction writer it is a must see. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

True Peace

Luke 2:14
“Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Micah 5:5
   And he will be the source of peace.

When I was a teenager, I looked forward to hearing my brother, Darryl, sing the song Let There be Peace on Earth. He was part of a quartet who echoed the beautiful words each Christmas. In the lyrics, the songwriters penned "let it [peace] begin with me." I took that to heart and have since sought out how to be a peaceful person. One who calms conflict and eases anxiety. Even though I seek peace, I'm not always at peace. The world is so full of noise and distraction, I sometimes have to close my eyes and block out everything to pray for peace in my heart.

Thankfully, I don't rely on myself to discover the peace that passes understanding. I just ask Jesus. He is the true peace. In Luke 2:14 a heavenly host of angels announced to the shepherds, minding their own business tending sheep, that a babe was born in a manger who will save the world. First of all, if a bunch of angels showed up and started talking to me, I'd be scared witless. So I'm guessing the shepherds felt the same way. From what I read in Luke 2:14, God had an inkling of how the shepherds would react because he bestowed his peace on them. He was pleased with them and didn't want them to be afraid. That's how God is, he is the giver of peace. Through Jesus he sent the Prince of Peace who gives understanding and calm in the midst of stress.


I love the words of Casting Crown's I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.  Click the link and give a listen, let the peace of Jesus pour over you. I pray for peace this Christmas season. Internal peace and peace in this world. Please pray with me.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Nonfiction Review: Blessed are the Misfits Great News for Believers who are Introverts, Spiritual Strugglers, or Just Feel Like They're Missing Something by Brant Hansen

Book Description:
Warning: If modern church culture makes perfect sense to you, and you always fit in seamlessly, don’t read this. As for the rest of us…

While American church culture (and American culture at large) seems largely designed for the extroverted, it’s estimated that half of the American population is introverted, and they’re often left wondering how, even if, they fit in the kingdom of God. As one of them, popular radio host Brant Hansen brings news. It’s wonderful, refreshing, and never-been-said-this-way-before good news.

In his unique style, Hansen looks to answer questions that millions of people carry with them each day:

If I don’t relate to God as emotionally as others do, is something wrong with me?

How does one approach God, and approach faith, when devoid of the “good feelings” that seem to drive so much of evangelical church culture?

How does God interact with those who seem spiritually numb?

Is the absence of faith-based emotion a sign of that God has moved on or was never there?

What if we aren’t good at talking to people about our faith, or good at talking to people at all?

What if I’m told I’m too analytical, that I “think too much”?

Where does a person who suffers from depression fit in the kingdom? Is depression a sure sign of a lack of faith?

This book is good news for people who are desperately looking for it. (And for their loved ones!)

It’s also for those who want to believe in Jesus, but inwardly fear that they don’t belong, worry that don’t have the requisite emotion-based relationship with God, and are starving for good news.

Blessed Are the Misfits is going to generate discussion, and lots of it. It’s simultaneously highly provocative and humbly personal. It’s also leavened with a distinct, dry, self-effacing humor that is a hallmark of Hansen’s on-air, writing, and public speaking style.

My Review:

I enjoy listening to Brant Hansen on the radio. In our area he's a D.J. on Star 93.3 in the morning, with his partner Sherri. He's funny and insightful, with a unique perspective. All of those traits come through in his writing. Blessed are the Misfits is a quick and enjoyable read, with a good dose of observation and wisdom. As an introvert, I appreciate Hansen's revelations on how difficult it is for introverts to be part of the modern church. But I especially value the chapter called "Blessed are the Perpetual Strugglers." He says, "The struggle means God is still working in you." I love this because I like knowing that God is working 'in' me not on me. I'm not his project, I'm his child who he loves. Brant tackles some tough topics like depression, the inability to pray, skepticism, and loneliness. I recommend this book for anyone who wants a better understanding of people and those who assume all people are okay in an extrovert world. If you're a misfit, read this book. If you're not, read it anyway and understand those of us who are. 5 stars. I received this book for free.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Joy Sparks Joy

Matthew 2:10
When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 

I just finished reading Blessed are the Misfits by Brant Hansen, Star radio DJ. In the book he poses the question, "Can a person have depression and joy at the same time?" That got me to thinking, can we invite joy into our hearts during the holidays, no matter the circumstances? Can I be joyful during the holidays even when... 

I'm a single parent and, by America's standards, I can't buy what my children want...

I've lost a loved one who won't be here to wish a Merry Christmas...

I'm a high school student who has no close friends...

I'm a college student struggling to balance work and school...

I'm a parent rushing from activity to activity just trying to get it all done...

I'm a soldier, out of the country, with no hope of being home for the holidays...

I'm just overwhelmed with all the preparation of Christmas...

I haven't experienced all of these scenarios, but I've had my share of struggles during the holidays. Circumstances that could have stolen every speck of joy from my heart. Yet, God shined on me through his people and his word. I found if I could muster one little spark of joy in my heart, the fire would burn and spark delight in my soul. The wise men found joy when they saw the star and realized Jesus was nearby. He is for us too. Jesus is here. He has the joy we desire. Not happiness that's fleeting, but joy that underlies all circumstances. Even when everything seems difficult or frustrating, Jesus' joy is like a buoy that helps me through the tough times.

Have you ever been around someone filled with joy. Their joy sparks joy in others. Let's set the world on fire with JOY!


I hope this Christmas is filled with joy for you. But if not, I challenge you to ask God for joy. Jesus gives the true joy of the season.

Fiction Book Review: The Gift of Christmas Past by Cindy Woodsmall & Erin Woodsmall

About the Book:
Arson wasn't the only fire that ignited between them.
Promises shattered.
Lies spoken.
She was arrested.
He returned to the safety of his wealthy parents.

Almost ten years later, Hadley and Monroe are both specialists in the field of speech therapy. They meet again . . . thrown together to help a four-year-old-girl rendered mute after being rescued from a fire.




Years of secrets and anger beg to be set free as Hadley and Monroe try to push aside past hurts and find common ground in order to help the traumatized child and her family.

Can the love of Christmas past drift into the present, bringing healing and hope for all?


My Review:
I enjoyed The Gift of Christmas Past. The characters are real, they have faults, feelings, and struggles. I love that. And they have spunk! That's awesome and it serves them well. Sometimes books portray women who have been abused or neglected as needy and whiny. Not so with The Woodsmalls. They gave Hadley and Elliott, sisters by chance/friends by choice, the strength and bravery they needed to overcome difficult circumstances. Of course there is a spiritual thread as well. One of my favorite characters is a doctor named Trent. You'll have to read the book to see what I mean. Although the story is not overwrought with the holidays, there is a touch of peace and joy in the story. This is a great book to read this winter. I received this book for free.